Solbit Says a Teary Goodbye to Tagine and Morocco

Dear Nicalai,

Nona gave me the bad news last night.  We’re leaving Marrakech.  Worse, we’re leaving Morocco tomorrow.

As we got ready for breakfast this morning, I complained to Papa, “…but I don’t want to say goodbye to Tagine; I don’t want to leave our riad; why can’t we stay in Morocco?”

DSC09793 Tagine & Solbit

Papa says, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

Tagine asked me, “Why can’t you say goodbye to Nona and Papa instead of to me?  You can live here in the Riad with me.  I’ll give you rides everyday!”

“They say we have to go to some place called Barcelona. It’s in another country called Spain.  I don’t want to leave you, Tagine, but, also, I don’t want to leave Nona and Papa.  You understand don’t you?” I asked.

DSC09792 Tagine

“My life at this riad is too filled with goodbyes,” Tagine pined.

 Tagine said that, although riad life was good, it has its downside.  He said imagine living in a place where you meet interesting and friendly people, barely get to know them, and, then, they leave a couple days later.  You’re saying “goodbye” almost before you’ve finished saying “hello.”  We looked at each other and had the same thought, “Hey, isn’t there a song something like that?”

DSC09808 Riad Tranquilty

Tagine asked, “So, what will you miss most about Morocco?”

After Tagine, what I’ll miss the most about Morocco is the contrast between the inside and the outside Morocco: the hustle and bustle of Moroccan streets contrasted with the calm and tranquility of the interior of the riad.

Marrakech Street Scene

Marrakech Street Scene

I loved the calm of our raid's rooftop.

I loved the calm of our raid’s rooftop.

Barcelona, here we come.

I’m your friend.

Love,

Solbit

October 2014

*New reader? Get oriented below.

You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.

You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit Misses Richard Branson and Tom Cruise

Dear Nicalai,

Our driver, Jalil, drove across the center line, pulled the car over to the left shoulder of the road, stopped the car, and then he asked, “Have you ever heard of Richard Branson?”

I never heard of Richard Branson.  Have you?  But, of course, John, Angela, Nona, and Papa all knew immediately who Jalil was talking about, and they said all at one time, “Virgin Airlines!”

“Right!” Jalil said pointing out his driver’s side window, “and that’s his kasbah, but he’s not there now; he’s rented the place to Tom Cruise.”  A kasbah is sort of a castle, I guess.

DSC00132

Branson wasn’t home, nor was his guest Tom Cruise.

Tom Cruise?  Who’s he? “Yeah, Cruise is here making another ‘Mission Impossible’ movie. A lot of movies get made here in Morocco,” Jalil explained.  Then he carefully started up the car, crossed over the center line, and, once again, we headed for Imlil.

As we drove down the road, I thought, “Hey, wait a minute.  Let’s go inside Branson’s kasbah and meet Tom Cruise,” but I didn’t say anything.  Jalil must have read my mind, though, “Yeah, we’d stop in to say hello to Tom, but he’s not there today; he’s out shooting on location somewhere,” and he laughed.  So did everyone else, but me.  What’s so funny?

Anyway, it just shows what a great driver Jalil is. He really knows Morocco: he knows who lives here, who visits here, and what to see.

John, Angela, Nona, and Papa were taking me up to the High Atlas mountains of Morocco for a few days of hiking.  Not long after we passed the Branson kasbah, Jalil said, “Now, we have entered Berber country. All the villages from here and up into the mountains will be Berber.

We saw many mules carrying people & freight.

We saw many mules carrying people & freight.

I was just about to ask Nona what’s a Berber, when Jalil read my mind again.  How does he do that! “Most people don’t know that Berber actually means Barbarian.  Do you know any famous Berbers?” he asked.  Silence.  “How about Hannibal for starters,” he answered his own question.

Nona and Papa had been home-schooling me about vocabulary. I had heard something about the word “barbarians.”  Heathen, brute, ruffian, wild man or wild woman, thug.  All these came to mind.

Suddenly, I called out, “Jalil, Jalil, stop the van; stop the van!”  He pulled over to the side of the road and stopped.  “What is it, Solbit? What’s the matter?”  I said, “What’s the matter?  I’ll tell you what’s the matter.  We’re surrounded!  By Berbers!”  Jalil calmly asked me, “Well, is that a problem for you?”

I got as close to Jalil’s ear as I could, and I said, “Jalil, let me put  it to you this way:  GET ME OUTTA HERE!  We’re all going to die.  The Berbers are really barbarians, and they’re going to get us!”  

Everyone, except Jalil laughed.  He understood how scared I was, and he calmed me down by telling me what I didn’t know. “Solbit, the Berber people didn’t call themselves barbarians.  They had their own name for themselves, Amazigh, and they are really very friendly and nice people.  You’ll love them, and they will love you,” he explained.

DSC00154 Berber apple farmer

This friendly Berber apple farmer gave us apples on our hike a few days after our trip with Jalil.

“The Greeks and Romans called them barbarians, but that was really war propaganda to make them look like monsters,” Jalili further calmed me.

Pathways between Berber villages often look like this.

Pathways between Berber villages often look like this.

Also, “You’ve come to Berber country at just the right time, in the early fall.  Now is the season of the apples and, best of all, the walnuts.

Girl, they know how to grow apples here; the orchards smell wonderful!

Girl, they know how to grow apples here; the orchards smell wonderful!

The Berbers will be busy harvesting the best apples you’ve ever tasted and the walnuts are to die for.  Ooops, let me put that another way for you.  The walnuts are extremely delicious.”

A few days later, our friendly Berber guide, Rashid, did serve us tea.

A few days later, our friendly Berber guide, Rashid, did serve us tea.

“They will serve you traditional mint tea with dried apricots and fresh walnuts on the side.  Oh, you’ll be in heaven!”  I was almost convinced until that last comment, and I said, “But I don’t want to die and go to heaven.”  Everyone laughed, including Jalil.  Nona interjected, “Solbit, what Jalil meant was that the walnuts will be the best that anyone has ever tasted.”

Everyone looked at me like they were waiting for me to say something.  “Well?” Papa asked, “Are you ready to go into Berber country now?”  I said, “Yes, let’s go, but I’m not calling the people here Berber; I’m going to call them Amazigh…if I can ever learn to pronounce it.”  Jalil started the van and off we went to the Berber — I mean, Amazigh — village of Imlil.

Well, I’m sorry that Richard Branson and Tom Cruise missed seeing me?  I’m sure I would have enjoyed meeting them, but the good news is that I’m going to meet the people who really live here!

I’m your friend.

Love,

Solbit

October 2014

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit Laps Up Luxury in Marrakech

Dear Nicalai,

Remember when I told you that I’m applying to be a member of the Dutch Royal Family?  Well, if that doesn’t work out, then I have a Plan B.  I’ll try to move into a Moroccan Riad.  Girl, forget your MacMansion, your luxury condo, your ranch house, and, even, your Loft.  Here’s where it’s at …

Our courtyard is breezy, shaded, and, oh, so tranquil.

Our courtyard is breezy, shaded, and, oh, so tranquil.

We have breakfast down here in the courtyard each morning.  Coffee and tea, french bread with all kinds of fruit jams and butter, and sometimes a fried egg, plus this luxurious space. Papa said, “Solbit, you’re lapping up luxury here in the riad.”

After breakfast my new Moroccan friend, Tagine, gives me a ride back to our room.

After breakfast my new Moroccan friend, Tagine, gives me a ride back to our room.

 I’m thinking that if the Dutch Royal Family doesn’t have room for me (and how could they not with all their big rooms?), then maybe Tagine and I could become brother and sister or sister and sister. (I can’t tell if he’s a she or if she’s a he. I don’t care which; s/he is really nice.) He’s sort of a jurassic too, right?  Anyway, I like him, and I think he likes me too, in a brother-sister sort of way.

This is a tagine, a Berber cooking pot.

This is a tagine, a Berber cooking pot.

Tagine is named after a type of Berber cooking pot, a tagine, in which they cook almost everything.  Nona and Papa seem to like the food here.  I guess he does look a bit like a tagine, with that shell on top of him, right?

Our riad rooftop hideaway with a view

Our riad rooftop hideaway with a view

When Nona and Papa want to read or write in quiet, they take me up here to the rooftop of our riad.  A tent with a couch and pillows and a 360 degree view of the Medina, the old city, on your own rooftop is hard to beat.

When the day is over, I just lay on our bed and stare at this wonderful painting on our wood ceiling.

Imagine painting this on your ceiling, lying on a scaffold and upside down.  How long would that take?

Imagine painting this on your ceiling, lying on a scaffold and upside down.  How long would that take?

So, I promised you that I’d tell you about Moroccan Riads, and I hope you agree that I kept my promise.  I think I’ll give the Dutch Royal Family until November to give me an answer.  If I don’t hear from them by then, I may ask Tagine if I can move in with him (or her).  With turtles, I can never tell which it is.  Can you?

I’m your friend.

Love,

Solbit

September 2014

*New reader? Get oriented below.

*You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.

*You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit, the Seasoned Traveler, Sees Secrets

Dear Nicalai,

As you know, I’ve become a “seasoned traveler!”  That’s what Nona and Papa have told me, anyway.  Being a seasoned traveler, I’ve become more aware of “little secrets” that other travelers have.  Different travelers have different “secrets” or opinions that they feel really strongly about, but they sort of pretend they don’t until something happens.  Then it comes out.

While we have been in Morocco, I’ve seen my four adult human travel companions with their particular “secrets.”

I'll start with John

I’ll start with John

Know what John’s secret is?  I do.  He wants his daily dose of dark chocolate, no matter what country he’s in.  Morocco must have bars of dark chocolate, but, I tell you, when John couldn’t find a supply here, he “was not a happy camper,” as Nona likes to say.

Then there’s Nona.  You know she doesn’t drink tea or coffee, ever.  She just doesn’t like the taste of it. Well, when we were at the home of a very friendly Berber, he served us mint tea.

IMG_3714

Berber mint tea

It’s made with Chinese Gunpowder tea mixed with fresh mint.  It really smells good.  Well, Nona couldn’t refuse it, but, when our host wasn’t looking, she took a few polite sips and quickly switched her almost full glass with Papa’s empty glass of tea!  Yeah, I saw her do it.  Papa didn’t tell on her though.  He was happy to have her glass of tea too.

Then there’s Papa.  You know he always wants his “special” glass of red grape juice with his supper.  That’s not always available here in Morocco.

Papa with glass of special red grape juice

Papa with glass of special red grape juice

It’s an Islamic culture here, and, for some reason, they don’t usually serve that kind of grape juice.  I don’t know why.  I see Papa looking around restaurants here to see if other tables have any of that grape juice, but he doesn’t talk about it.

Finally, I gotta tell you about Angela. She wanted to buy a pouf here.  I didn’t know what a pouf is.  Do you?  It’s a pretty and well made leather bag into which you put stuffing.  Then it becomes a comfortable stool, seat, or some people say “Ottoman.”

DSC00415

At the pouf shop: Merzoga Cuir, 159, Rahba Lakdima Sidi Ishak – Marrakech

Well, Angela found just the pouf that she wanted.  She asked the shop owner, “How much?”  He told her a price. At that point, here in Morocco, you’re supposed to bargain.  Right?  You don’t agree to pay the full price.

John and Nona know all about the proper way to bargain prices in the market here, and they thought Angela and Papa did too.  But Angela and Papa were aghast (cool word, huh? Nona taught it to me).  They didn’t know that you’re supposed to offer to pay just about one third of the price you are given.  Then the shop owner will, maybe, say no, he has to have at least two thirds of the price.  Then you are supposed to say no, you can only pay less.  This bargaining goes back and forth until you finally agree to pay maybe half or a little more than half the original price.  You’re happy, and the shop owner is happy.

Well, John jumped in and began to bargain.  That’s when Angela “joined forces” with the shop owner to insist on the full price.  The poor shop owner didn’t know what to do!  He finally bargained with John, while Angela worried she wouldn’t get her pouf.  They agreed on a good price for her very nice pouf.  Everyone was happy.

Angela was especially happy

Angela was especially happy

That pretty much describes our experience here in Morocco. Everyone is happy.  What about my “secret?”  Well, if I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret, would it?

I’m your friend.

Love,

Solbit

October 2014

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit Is Back from the Souk

Dear Nicalai,

Hi, Girl, do they have a lot of stuff to sell here in Marrakech!

We’re back from the souk.  I’d been to a souk already.  Yeah, in Istanbul.  Shops bunched up together, things for sale tumbling out of the little booths onto the walkways.  People yelling at each other in French, Berber, and Arabic — sometimes even in English, German, Spanish, or Dutch. Gosh, a lot of languages are spoken here. You can find everything from snake charmers to fine art here in Jama el Fna, the big market.

Hey, do you like donkeys. Hee Haw!  Me, too! Look at this.

DSC09992

I saw so many donkey carts! One almost ran over Nona and me! 

Yeah, these donkey carts bring things to sell to the souk and then go home empty like this one.

What’s a souk?  It’s an Arab open air market.  Here’s a photo of me looking down into the big market.

DSC00478

It’s considered impolite to take photos of people here so we had to take this at a distance to be polite.

The big souk, Jema el-Fnaa, opens in the late morning, but they really get going when the sun goes down.

IMG_3440

I like the souk at night, when we ate on a rooftop at Kafe Kessabine and could look down on the crowd.

Then swarms of people walk around, stop for coffee or tea, meet neighbors and talk, and, of course, haggle over prices with shop keepers.

In the daytime, you see lots of pigeons clean up and also getting fed bread by people.

DSC09818

This 12th Century Mosque, Koutoubia Mosque, is near the big souk and we saw it everyday.

Even though everything is sold at the souk, Nona and Papa just looked and didn’t buy anything — you know, like they always do.

Oh, I forgot to tell you, if you go to a souk, you need to keep your money and cell phone in a zipper pocket or inside your blouse.  Know why?  Pick pockets.  Nona says they’re “opportunists.” New word for me!  “If you give them an opportunity to take your money, they will,” she said.

That scared me a bit, and I said, “Nona, please don’t give them an opportunity to take me!”  She assured me that pick pockets just want money, cameras, and jewelry, but not plastic jurassics.  Whew! After that, I could really enjoy moving through the swarm of people.

I think that my favorite memories of Marrakech may be the doors.  The doors of places on our walk to and from the souk were so pretty.

IMG_3778

Papa took this of Nona by a typical door on our walk home from the souk.

You just gotta come here to see the doors! No kidding!

Oh, no, we’re going to bed now, and I haven’t gotten to tell you about our riad. Next time, OK.  I promise.

I’m your friend.

Love,

Solbit

September 2014

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit says, “Wake me when — no, IF — we get there.”

Dear Nicalai,

Girl, did we ever have a hard time getting from Amsterdam to Marrakech.  Papa said “We will NEVER go through the Casablanca airport ever again!”  Nona said, “We will NEVER fly Royal Air Maroc again!”  I said, “Put me back in your purse, Nona, and wake me when — I mean IF — we ever get there.”

DSC00548

Do you know we’ve gone around the world for almost two years, and this trip to Morocco is our first with serious delays and problems?  It wasn’t just Nona and Papa having problems.  For a moment, when I was in Nona’s purse at the Casablanca airport, I heard many people shouting loudly in French and in Arabic.  Wow, were they angry at the airline crew in Casablanca! Nona feared that someone was going to get hurt.  Literally a hundred or more of us passengers had been bumped from flights and faced hours of waiting for a next flight.  Well, that’s the bad news.

Our Riad Matham in Marrakech is the good news.  A riad is a special kind of guesthouse.  We didn’t get there until almost 2 AM in the morning.  The streets to our riad were so narrow, that our taxi had to park many blocks away.  Our riad host met us there and guided us, pulling luggage, through the dark, narrow, winding streets to Riad Matham.

Just imagine walking with luggage here at night!

Just imagine walking with luggage here at night!

Our first night walking in those narrow Marrakech alleyways looked dangerous to me, but Nona and Papa followed our host, François.  Turns out it is safe and just looks scary to people like us from the US. Papa says, “Don’t let fear guide your life, Solbit.”  I’m beginning to see what he means.  You’ll see too when we get through this door to the riad.

DSC09976

The riad door opens to another world.

When Francois opened the door to the riad, we stepped into a different world of tranquil comfort.  The first thing we saw was a beautiful presentation on the white wall of the Berber alphabet.

Did you know the Berber people had an alphabet long before many other people did?

Did you know the Berber people had an alphabet long before many other people did?

It just got better after that.  Hey, we’re leaving for the souk now, so I’ll tell you more about our riad later. What’s a souk?  I’ll have to tell you about those later, too. Until then, remember:  don’t go through the Casablanca airport and avoid Royal Air Maroc.  Bye.

I’m your friend.

Love,

Solbit

September 2014

*New reader? Get oriented below.

You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.

You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”